This is the second time that Bin Laden offers his adversaries in the West a long truce. It is also the second time that they reject it. The reason is that Bin Laden does not hold anymore the keys of Al-Qaeda’s armies, which have been cloned, and he and the other leaders have become mere commentators on their major events, which they hear about from the media like everyone else. The question that has been asked for two years is not what Al-Qaeda leaders are planning but whether they are alive and where they are hiding.
The first leadership had a country, Afghanistan, and administered a political system, the Taliban. It also had open training fields, huge financial budgets, and recruitment operations under the same leadership. The old Al-Qaeda collapsed when it lost the country, the Afghan regime fell, the means of collecting funds and their remittances were curtailed all over the world, and the recruits were hunted down. Senior leaders like Al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden ended up moving between remote villages between Afghanistan and Pakistan with a small number of followers for fear of the chase. Al-Qaeda’s other leaders, like Abu Gaith and Saif al Adl fell into Iran’s hands and are living under its control and administration.
The new field commanders, like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq or Al-Qahtani in Afghanistan, do not belong to or know Bin Laden or Al-Zawahiri and sometimes do not heed their orders, including the public ones, as was the case in the public verbal dispute between the command of the Land of the Two Rivers and Al-Zawahiri when the latter denounced the bombings of civilians and the targeting of the Shiites and the former responded by rejecting his orders and continues to bomb to this day.
Though the US Government rejected the truce offer immediately, it wishes it in the depth of its heart, if only it could be implemented. But it realizes that Al-Qaeda’s elders are incapable of controlling its youths. The war between the two sides is continuing and operations are being carried out in the Horn of Africa countries and south of the Sahara too outside the map of Al-Qaeda’s traditional empire, or as an American military officer called it the branches of the giant MacDonald company. Reports of these operations rarely reach the media.
Bin Laden’s truce cannot be taken seriously, particularly in view of his difficult position. He is moving from one hideout to another, unable to use telephones, and fears the treachery of his host everywhere he goes. His long absence and being content with a badly recorded single cassette confirm his isolation from the world apart from commenting on the news.
Bin Laden must surely want a truce, especially as this is the second offer. He justifies his stand by the American citizens’ desire to withdraw their forces from Iraq. Any truce usually starts with impossible conditions and negotiations about the impossible and finally ends up with flexible solutions. The Americans know, despite the heavy price, that the truce serves their purposes because the war with Al-Qaeda has achieved aims for them. They had brought down two hostile regimes, disciplined other ones, dispersed Al-Qaeda, and consolidated their strategic presence in the region. As to Al-Qaeda, it succeeded in creating terror but did not achieve a similar presence like the one it enjoyed in Afghanistan. The truce is a non-starter because the one volunteering it is incapable of guaranteeing it and the Americans are not interested in a truce in the Pakistani-Afghan border areas where the remnants of the old Al-Qaeda are.